As families gather with their loved ones for Thanksgiving dinner, there are those in Frederick County who must count on the area’s food banks for their turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.
With many families continuing to struggle financially, food banks are scrambling to keep up with the demand and reaching out to the community for donations. They make every effort to ensure that the people they serve will not go hungry this holiday season.
“There is a good number of people who have lost their jobs or have health issues and can’t work who need help,” said Phyllis Thompson of the Middletown Food Bank. “We also have single moms and single dads. November is always our busiest month of the year.”
The Middletown Food Bank at 301 E. Main St. feeds people living in Braddock Heights, Middletown and Myersville. On average, they serve 300 people a month, Thompson said.
On Nov. 1, food bank volunteers began handing out Thanksgiving dinners that included turkey, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, vegetables, stuffing and dessert. They plan to distribute 190 dinners, Thompson said.
To help fill their pantry, 10,085 cans of food were collected by Boy Scout Troops and Cub Scout Packs in the Middletown area on Saturday.
It was all part of the Scouting for Food drive across the county. Empty bags were left on residential doorsteps for the scouts to pick up once they were filled. All collected food was immediately delivered to the nine food banks in the county.
Scouting for Food is a national program sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America and the National Capital Area Boy Scout Council.
“We are thrilled,” Thompson said. “This is over 2,000 more cans than last year, and one of the largest collections we have had. Thanks to the community.”
But not all food banks in the area did as well.
Donations for the Frederick Food Bank, located at the Frederick Community Action Agency at 100 South Market St., were down 30 percent from last year, food bank Director Sarah McAleavy said. Last November, they received 11,000 pounds of food.
McAleavy said the donations are vital to keep their pantry full because they serve about 650 people a month.
“This is our Christmas,” she said. “In a perfect world this should get us through the winter. There are so many people in need because of the economy.”
In 2010, 1,400 families received meals from the county’s food banks, according to The Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, a group of local churches that joined together to help those in need in Frederick County. That number has jumped to 1,500 this year.
“It looks as though we have doubled from what we were seeing five years ago,” said the Rev. Brian J. Scott, executive director of the coalition.
McAleavy said the Frederick Food Bank may have to purchase food if necessary to get through the year.
“Last year I didn’t have to buy anything at all,” she said.
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, food bank volunteers will be distributing 11,000 Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings to needy families at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick.
“They just have to show [identification] and that they live in Frederick County,” McAleavy said.
The Walkersville Food Bank at 21 W. Frederick St. received 20,000 pounds of food on Saturday — 10 percent below last year.
But Director Donna Swanson said they have enough Thanksgiving dinners for the 170 clients they serve monthly.
“Right now, we’re pretty good,” she said.
The food bank could still use donations of cereal, Hamburger Helper, tuna fish, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce and canned fruits, Swanson said.
To help needy families in the county this holiday season, SoldierFit, a fitness program at the Frederick Indoor Sports Center at 1845 Brookfield Court in Frederick, is also holding a food drive. Its 600 to 700 Frederick County members are encouraged to bring in canned food.
SoldierFit also has locations in Gaithersburg, North Potomac, Rockville, Owings Mills and Hagerstown.
“For every canned or box of food, [staff] will do a push up,” said Jessica UpChurch, SoldierFit’s event coordinator.
“... We do a lot of charity events,” UpChurch said. “We’re always giving back to the community.”